By Raby Ould Idoumou
Mauritania has just opened three new transit points in the southern province of Brakna to better regulate cross-border movements.
Mauritania’s authorities are determined to control and regulate immigration to establish security and safety all over the country, Secretary-General of the Interior Ministry Mohamed El Hadi Massine said at the February 26th inauguration.
The move came in the context of a broader fight against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), according to Nouadhibou-based journalist Elvagha Ould Cheibany, who specialises in illegal immigration. “There are armed groups that are moving,” he said.
“There is no doubt that the kidnapping of three Spanish nationals on the Nouakchott-Nouadhibou highway in November 2009 from a humanitarian convoy was a major breach of Mauritania’s security reinforcements. Therefore, the Mauritanian authorities decided to set fixed transit points for foreigners to enter the country. The current inauguration of transit points is part of this new drive.”
The trend, however, does not conflict with the long-standing Mauritanian traditions of hospitality and openness, but is aimed at protecting citizens and their properties, according to ANI.
The Brakna area witnessed flows of migrants who would head for Europe’s shores via Nouakchott and Nouadhibou.
The border was demarcated and secured in co-operation with the European Union and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in the presence of Brakna governor Abu Bakr Ould Khouro and the province’s administrative and security authorities.
EU and IOM representatives praised Mauritania’s security strategy and vowed to support the country.
NATO official Nicola de Santis confirmed in Nouakchott that Mauritania and the alliance were co-operating on efforts against terrorism, cross-border organised crime and illegal immigration
The port city of Nouadhibou is particularly affected by clandestine immigration. The western town has turned into “a place for the settlement of illegal immigrants after many of them flocked there, and after control was tightened on the two Moroccan cities of Ceuta and Melilla”, according to the Municipal Bureau of Immigration in Nouadhibou.
In its 2009-2010 study, the bureau estimated that 84,500 illegal immigrants had died by drowning between 2006 and 2009. About 4,000 immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa are waiting in Nouadhibou for an opportunity to cross to Europe, especially to Spain, on boats. Women represent about one-fifth of them.
Immigrants are primarily driven by economic factors, according to the study. The report also noted a steep drop in the numbers of immigrants who arrive in Europe, from 31,678 in 2006 to just 184 in October 2010.
“The big wave of immigrants from Sub-Saharan African countries made some decide to settle down there. This has prompted those who conducted the study to consider the places that were just transit points for immigrants as reception areas,” the report said.
The study stressed the need to take urgent measures to include illegal immigration as one of co-operation policies. Mauritania’s national gendarmerie obtains equipment, surveillance devices and vehicles from Spanish coastal guards to patrol the border.
Ould Cheibany noted that the drop in immigration numbers was due to “measures and procedures taken in this regard, in terms of prior surveillance of groups of visitors and control of traditional fishing boats and ships”.
“This is in addition to thwarting attempts to smuggle immigrants by networks specialised in illegal immigration and dismantling cells of smuggling immigrants to Europe,” he added. “Four leaders of such cells were brought to justice, and sent to civil prison in Nouadhibou.”